- Title: Iraq's Sufis perform body piercing rituals
- Date: 21st June 2017
- Summary: ***WARNING CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** VARIOUS OF WORSHIPPERS CHANTING AND SWAYING
- Embargoed: 5th July 2017 11:13
- Keywords: Sufi Muslim Basra piercing
- Location: BASRA, IRAQ
- City: BASRA, IRAQ
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Religion/Belief,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA0086M7XYL1
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS GRAPHIC MATERIAL
Flicking their hair and swaying to the beat of goatskin drums, followers of a mystical Sufi sect in Iraq's southern city of Basra begin a religious ritual which will culminate in them piercing their mouths and heads with skewers and knives.
The session, known as 'dhikr' (remembering of God), is performed by devotees of the Kasnazani, a sub-order of the Qadiri order, in Basra's Zubair district.
It is usually performed twice a week but intensifies during the holy month of Ramadan.
"Dervishes gather and form a circle to ask help from Allah, the Prophet, Ahl al-Bayt (Prophet Mohammed's relatives) and the sheikhs of the order and then they perform remembrance accompanied by movement as we believe that there is a spiritual benefit in movement," says Hani Abu Mustafa, a follower and licensed guide of the order.
Sufism, or Tasawwaf, as it is called in Arabic, is generally understood to be the inner, mystical or psycho-spiritual dimension of Islam, with the Kasnazani thought to be the largest Sufi order in Iraq.
A key part of the ritual involves piercing body parts, with worshipers proudly showing skewers penetrating cheeks and knives protruding from scalps. Believers say these are signs of being blessed by God.
Mustafa says that the practice unites all sects.
"We are all brothers here and we are equal. We put aside our sectarianism even in our behaviour in the street and we behold the ethics of the Sufis which preaches love for all. Love for the companions of the prophet and love for all Muslims. We do not believe in violence. We only believe in divine love," he said.
However, practitioners of Sufism have customs that have been frowned upon by the adherents of mainstream Islam.
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